Appellees, licensed optometrists employed by Lee Optical Co.,
who were not members of the Alabama Optometric Association
(Association), were charged by the Association with unprofessional
conduct within the meaning of the state optometry statute because
of their employment with the company. The complaint was filed with
the Alabama Board of Optometry (Board), all members of which were
Association members. The Board deferred proceedings while a suit it
had brought against Lee Optical and optometrists employed by it to
enjoin the company from practicing optometry was litigated in the
state trial court. The charges against the individual defendants
were dismissed but the court enjoined Lee Optical from engaging in
the practice of optometry. The company appealed. When the Board
revived the Association's charges against appellees, they sought an
injunction in the Federal District Court under the Civil Rights Act
claiming that the Board was biased. The court concluded that it was
not barred from acting by the federal anti-injunction statute,
since only administrative proceedings were involved, and that
exhaustion of administrative remedies was not mandated where the
administrative process was biased in that the Board, by its
litigation in the state courts, had prejudged the case against
appellees, and the Board members had an indirect pecuniary interest
in the outcome. The District Court enjoined the Board proceedings,
but, thereafter and before this appeal was taken, the State's
highest court reversed the judgment against Lee Optical and held
that the optometry law did not prohibit a licensed optometrist from
working for a corporation.
1. The anti-injunction statute did not bar the District Court
from issuing the injunction, since appellees brought suit under the
Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pp. 411 U. S.
2. Nor did the rule of Younger v. Harris, 401 U. S.
, or principles of comity require the District Court
to dismiss appellees' suit in view of the pending Board proceeding,
since the appellees
Page 411 U. S. 565
alleged and the District Court concluded that the Board's bias
rendered it incompetent to adjudicate the issues. Pp. 411 U. S.
3. Since the Board was composed solely of private practitioners
and the corporate employees it sought to bar from practice
constituted half the optometrists in the State, the District Court
was warranted in concluding that the Board members' pecuniary
interest disqualified them from passing on the issues. Pp.
411 U. S.
4. Though the District Court did not abuse its discretion in not
abstaining until the Lee Optical
decision was rendered by
the Alabama Supreme Court, the principles of equity, comity, and
federalism warrant reconsideration of this case in the light of
that decision. Pp. 411 U. S.
, vacated and remanded.
WHITE, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. BURGER,
C.J., filed a concurring opinion, post,
p. 411 U. S. 581
MARSHALL, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which BRENNAN, J.,
p. 411 U. S.
MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.
Prior to 1965, the laws of Alabama relating to the practice of
optometry permitted any person, including a business firm or
corporation, to maintain a department in which "eyes are examined
or glasses fitted," provided that such department was in the charge
of a duly licensed optometrist. This permission was expressly
conferred by § 210 of Title 46 of the Alabama Code of 1940, and
also, inferentially, by § 211 of the Code, which regulates the
Page 411 U. S. 566
advertising practices of of optometrists and which, until 1965,
appeared to contemplate the existence of commercial stores with
optical departments. [Footnote
] In 1965, § 210 was repealed in its entirety by the Alabama
Legislature, and § 211 was amended so as to eliminate any direct
Page 411 U. S. 567
to optical departments maintained by corporations or other
business establishments under the direction of employee
optometrists. [Footnote 2
Soon after these statutory changes, the Alabama Optometric
Association, a professional organization whose membership is
limited to independent practitioners of optometry not employed by
others, filed charges against various named optometrists, all of
whom were duly licensed under Alabama law but were the salaried
employees of Lee Optical Co. The charges were filed with the
Alabama Board of Optometry, the statutory body with authority to
issue, suspend, and revoke licenses for the practice of optometry.
The gravamen of these charges was that the named optometrists, by
accepting employment from Lee Optical, a corporation, had engaged
in "unprofessional conduct" within the meaning of § 206 of the
Alabama optometry statute, and hence were practicing their
profession unlawfully. [Footnote
] More particularly,
Page 411 U. S. 568
the Association charged the named individuals with, among other
things, aiding and abetting a corporation in the illegal practice
of optometry; practicing optometry under a false name, that is, Lee
Optical Co.; unlawfully soliciting the sale of glasses; lending
their licenses to Lee Optical Co.; and splitting or dividing fees
with Lee Optical. [Footnote 4
It was apparently the Association's position that, following the
repeal of § 210 and the amendment of § 211, the practice of
optometry by individuals as employees of business corporations was
no longer permissible in Alabama, and that, by accepting such
employment, the named optometrists had violated the ethics of their
profession. It was prayed that the Board revoke the licenses of the
individuals charged following due notice and a proper hearing.
Two days after these charges were filed by the Association in
October, 1965, the Board filed a suit of its own in state court
against Lee Optical, seeking to enjoin the company from engaging in
the "unlawful practice of optometry." The Board's complaint also
named 13 optometrists employed by Lee Optical as parties
Page 411 U. S. 569
charging them with aiding and abetting the company in its
illegal activities, as well as with other improper conduct very
similar to that charged by the Association in its complaint to the
Proceedings on the Association's charges were held in abeyance
by the Board while its own state court suit progressed. The
individual defendants in that suit were dismissed on grounds that
do not adequately appear in the record before us, and, eventually,
on March 17, 1971, the state trial court rendered judgment for the
Board, and enjoined Lee Optical both from practicing optometry
without a license and from employing licensed optometrists.
] The company
appealed this judgment.
Meanwhile, following its victory in the trial court, the Board
reactivated the proceedings pending before it since 1965 against
the individual optometrists employed by Lee, noticing them for
hearings to be held on May 26 and 27, 1971. Those individuals
countered on May 14, 1971, by filing a complaint in the United
States District Court naming as defendants the Board of Optometry
and its individual members, as well as the Alabama Optometric
Association and other individuals. The suit, brought under the
Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, sought an injunction
against the scheduled hearings on the grounds that the statutory
scheme regulating the practice of optometry in Alabama [Footnote 6
] was unconstitutional
Page 411 U. S. 570
insofar as it permitted the Board to hear the pending charges
against the individual plaintiffs in the federal suit. [Footnote 7
] The thrust of the complaint
was that the Board was biased, and could not provide the plaintiffs
with a fair and impartial hearing in conformity with due process of
A three-judge court was convened in August, 1971, and, shortly
thereafter, entered judgment for plaintiffs, enjoining members of
the State Board and their successors "from conducting a hearing on
the charges heretofore preferred against the Plaintiffs" and from
revoking their licenses to practice optometry in the State of
In its supporting opinion, 331 F.
, the District Court first considered whether it
should stay its hand and defer to the then-pending state
proceedings -- that is, whether the situation presented was one
which would permit of immediate federal intervention to restrain
the actions of a state administrative body. That question was
answered in the affirmative, the court holding that 28 U.S.C. 2283,
the federal anti-injunction statute, was not applicable to state
administrative proceedings even where those proceedings were
adjudicatory in character. Moreover, the District Court also held
that neither Younger v. Harris, 401 U. S.
(1971), nor the doctrine normally requiring
exhaustion of administrative remedies forbade a federal injunction
where, as the court found to be true here, the administrative
process was so defective and inadequate as to deprive the
plaintiffs of due process of law.
This conclusion with respect to the deficiencies in the pending
proceedings against plaintiffs, although an amalgam of several
elements, amounted basically to a sustaining
Page 411 U. S. 571
of the plaintiffs' allegation of bias. For the District Court,
the inquiry was not whether the Board members were
"actually biased, but whether, in the natural course of events,
there is an indication of a possible temptation to an average man
sitting as a judge to try the case with bias for or against any
issue presented to him."
331 F. Supp. at 125. Such a possibility of bias was found to
arise in the present case from a number of factors. First was the
fact that the Board, which acts as both prosecutor and judge in
delicensing proceedings, had previously brought suit against the
plaintiffs on virtually identical charges in the state courts. This
the District Court took to indicate that members of the Board might
have "preconceived opinions" with regard to the cases pending
before them. Second, the court found as a fact that Lee Optical Co.
did a large business in Alabama and that, if it were forced to
suspend operations, the individual members of the Board, along with
other private practitioners of optometry, would fall heir to this
business. Thus, a serious question of a personal financial stake in
the matter in controversy was raised. Finally, the District Court
appeared to regard the Board as a suspect adjudicative body in the
cases then pending before it, because only members of the Alabama
Optometric Association could be members of the Board, and because
the Association excluded from membership optometrists, such as the
plaintiffs, who were employed by other persons or entities. The
result was that 92 of the 192 practicing optometrists in Alabama
were denied participation in the governance of their own
The court's ultimate conclusion was
"that to require the Plaintiffs to resort to the protection
offered by state law in these cases would effectively deprive them
of their property, that is, their right to practice their
professions, without due process of law, and that irreparable
Page 411 U. S. 572
would follow in the normal course of events. [Footnote 8
331 F. Supp. at 126.
Appeal was taken to this Court and probable jurisdiction noted
on June 26, 1972. 408 U.S. 920. Meanwhile, on March 30, 1972, the
Supreme Court of Alabama reversed the judgment of the state trial
court in the Lee Optical Co.
case, [Footnote 9
] holding that nothing in the Alabama
statutes pertaining to optometry evidenced
"a legislative policy that an optometrist duly qualified and
licensed under the laws of this state may not be employed by
another to examine eyes for the purpose of prescribing eyeglasses.
288 Ala. 338, 346, 261
So. 2d 17
It is against this procedural background that we turn to a
consideration of the issues presented by this appeal.
We agree with the District Court that neither statute nor case
law precluded it from adjudicating the issues before it and from
issuing the injunction if its decision on the merits was
Title 28 U.S.C. § 2283, the anti-injunction statute, prohibits
federal courts from enjoining state court proceedings, but the
statute excepts from its prohibition injunctions
Page 411 U. S. 573
which are "expressly authorized" by another Act of Congress.
] Last Term,
after the District Court's decision here, this Court determined
that actions brought under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, were within the "expressly authorized" exception to the ban
on federal injunctions. [Footnote 12
] Mitchum v. Foster, 407 U.
Our decision in Mitchum,
however, held only that a
district court was not absolutely barred by statute from enjoining
a state court proceeding when called upon to do so in a § 1983
suit. As we expressly stated in Mitchum,
nothing in that
decision purported to call into question the established principles
of equity, comity, and federalism which must, under appropriate
circumstances, restrain a federal court from issuing such
at 407 U. S. 243
These principles have been emphasized by this Court many times in
the past, albeit under a variety of different rubrics. First of
all, there is the doctrine, usually applicable when an injunction
is sought, that a party must exhaust his available administrative
remedies before invoking the equitable jurisdiction of a court.
See, e.g., Prentis v. Atlantic Coast Line Co.,
211 U. S. 210
(1908); Illinois Commerce Comm'n v. Thomson, 318 U.
(1943). Secondly, there is the basic principle of
federalism, restated as recently as 1971 in Younger v.
Harris, 401 U. S. 37
a federal court may not
Page 411 U. S. 574
enjoin a pending state criminal proceeding in the absence of
special circumstances suggesting bad faith, harassment or
irreparable injury that is both serious and immediate. And finally,
there is the doctrine, developed in our cases at least since
Railroad Comm'n v. Pullman Co., 312 U.
(1941), that, when confronted with issues of
constitutional dimension which implicate or depend upon unsettled
questions of state law, a federal court ought to abstain and stay
its proceedings until those state law questions are definitively
In the instant case the matter of exhaustion of administrative
remedies need not detain us long. Normally, when a State has
instituted administrative proceedings against an individual who
then seeks an injunction in federal court, the exhaustion doctrine
would require the court to delay action until the administrative
phase of the state proceedings is terminated, at least where
coverage or liability is contested and administrative expertise,
discretion, or factfinding is involved. [Footnote 13
] But this Court has expressly held in
recent years that state administrative remedies need not be
exhausted where the federal court plaintiff states an otherwise
good cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. McNeese v. Board
of Education, 373 U. S. 668
(1963); Damico v. California, 389 U.
(1967). Whether this is invariably the case even
where, as here, a license revocation proceeding has been brought by
the State and is pending before one of its own agencies and where
the individual charged is to be deprived of
Page 411 U. S. 575
nothing until the completion of that proceeding is a question we
need not now decide, for the clear purport of appellees' complaint
was that the State Board of Optometry was unconstitutionally
constituted, and so did not provide them with an adequate
administrative remedy requiring exhaustion. Thus, the question of
the adequacy of the administrative remedy, an issue which, under
federal law, the District Court was required to decide, was, for
all practical purposes, identical with the merits of appellees'
lawsuit. [Footnote 14
This brings us to the question of whether Younger v.
Harris, 401 U. S. 37
(1971); Samuels v. Mackell, 401 U. S.
(1971), or the principles of equity, comity, and
federalism for which those cases stand precluded the District Court
from acting, in view of the fact that proceedings against appellees
were pending before the Alabama Board of Optometry. Those cases and
principles would, under ordinary circumstances, forbid either a
declaratory judgment or injunction with respect to the validity or
enforcement of a state statute when a criminal proceeding under the
statute has been commenced. Whether a like rule obtains where state
civil proceedings are pending was left open in Younger
its companion cases.
Page 411 U. S. 576
Appellants now insist not only that the issue is posed here by
the pendency of proceedings before the state board, but also that
the issue was actually decided following Younger
summary affirmance in the case of Geiger v. Jenkins,
U.S. 985 (1971). In that case, the State Medical Board of Georgia
noticed hearings on charges filed against a medical practitioner
who immediately brought suit in federal court under § 1983 seeking
an injunction on the ground that the underlying statute the Medical
Board sought to enforce was unconstitutional. The District Court
dismissed the action without reaching the merits, holding that the
state proceedings were "in the nature of criminal proceedings,"
sufficiently so, in any event, to trigger the 28 U.S.C. § 2283 bar
to federal intervention. 316 F.
372 (ND Ga.1970). The decision was appealed to this
Court and summarily affirmed without opinion, but with citation to
As frequently occurs in the case of summary affirmance, the
decision in Geiger
is somewhat opaque. We doubt, however,
that it is controlling here. First of all, it appears from the
jurisdictional statement and motion to affirm in Geiger
that state criminal proceedings were pending at the time of the
challenged dismissal of the federal case. Moreover, it also appears
that, subsequent to that dismissal, the State Medical Board
completed its proceedings and revoked Geiger's license, and that
judicial proceedings to review that order were already under way in
the state courts. Secondly, there is no judicial finding here, as
there was in Geiger,
that, under applicable state law,
license revocation proceedings are quasi
nature; nor is the Alabama case law now cited for this proposition
persuasive. See State v. Keel,
33 Ala.App. 609, 35 So. 2d
625 (1948). Finally, although it is apparent from Geiger
that administrative proceedings looking toward the revocation of a
license to practice
Page 411 U. S. 577
medicine may, in proper circumstances, command the respect due
court proceedings, there remains the claim here, not present in
that the administrative body itself was
unconstitutionally constituted, and so not entitled to hear the
charges filed against the appellees.
Unlike those situations where a federal court merely abstains
from decision on federal questions until the resolution of
underlying or related state law issues [Footnote 15
] -- a subject we shall consider shortly in
the context of the present case -- Younger v. Harris
contemplates the outright dismissal of the federal suit, and the
presentation of all claims, both state and federal, to the state
courts. Such a course naturally presupposes the opportunity to
raise and have timely decided by a competent state tribunal the
federal issues involved. Here, the predicate for a Younger v.
dismissal was lacking, for the appellees alleged, and
the District Court concluded, that the State Board of Optometry was
incompetent by reason of bias to adjudicate the issues pending
before it. If the District Court's conclusion was correct in this
regard, it was also correct that it need not defer to the Board.
Nor, in these circumstances, would a different result be required
simply because judicial review, de novo
would be forthcoming at the conclusion of the administrative
proceedings. [Footnote 16
Cf. Ward v. Village of Monroeville, 409 U. S.
Page 411 U. S. 578
It is appropriate, therefore, that we consider the District
Court's conclusions that the State Board of Optometry was so biased
by prejudgment and pecuniary interest that it could not
constitutionally conduct hearings looking toward the revocation of
appellees' licenses to practice optometry. We affirm the District
Court in this respect.
The District Court thought the Board to be impermissibly biased
for two reasons. First, the Board had filed a complaint in state
court alleging that appellees had aided and abetted Lee Optical Co.
in the unlawful practice of optometry, and also that they had
engaged in other forms of "unprofessional conduct" which, if
proved, would justify revocation of their licenses. These charges
were substantially similar to those pending against appellees
before the Board and concerning which the Board had noticed
hearings following its successful prosecution of Lee Optical in the
state trial court.
Secondly, the District Court determined that the aim of the
Board was to revoke the licenses of all optometrists in the State
who were employed by business corporations such as Lee Optical, and
that these optometrists accounted for nearly half of all the
optometrists practicing in Alabama. Because the Board of Optometry
was composed solely of optometrists in private practice for their
own account, the District Court concluded that success in the
Board's efforts would possibly redound to the personal benefit of
members of the Board sufficiently so that, in the opinion of the
District Court, the Board was constitutionally disqualified from
hearing the charges filed against the appellees.
The District Court apparently considered either source of
possible bias -- prejudgment of the facts or personal interest --
sufficient to disqualify the members of the Board.
Page 411 U. S. 579
Arguably, the District Court was right on both scores, but we
need reach, and we affirm, only the latter ground of possible
personal interest. [Footnote
It is sufficiently clear from our cases that those with
substantial pecuniary interest in legal proceedings should not
adjudicate these disputes. Tumey v. Ohio, 273 U.
(1927). And Ward v. Village of
Monroeville, 409 U. S. 57
(1972), indicates that the financial stake need not be as direct or
positive as it appeared to be in Tumey.
It has also come
to be the prevailing view that "[m]ost of the law concerning
disqualification because of interest applies with equal force to .
. . administrative adjudicators." K. Davis, Administrative Law Text
§ 12.04, p. 250 (1972), and cases cited. The District Court
proceeded on this basis and, applying the standards taken from our
cases, concluded that the pecuniary interest of the members of the
Board of Optometry had sufficient substance to disqualify them,
given the context in which this case arose. As remote as we are
from the local realities underlying this case, and it being very
likely that the District Court has a firmer grasp of the facts and
of their significance to the issues presented, we have no good
reason on this record to overturn its conclusion, and we affirm
Finally, we do not think that the doctrine of abstention, as
developed in our cases from Railroad Comm'n
Page 411 U. S. 580
Pullman Co., 312 U. S. 496
(1941), to Lake Carriers' Assn. v. MacMullan, 406 U.
(1972), required the District Court to stay its
proceedings until the appellees had presented unsettled questions
of state law to the state courts. Those questions went to the reach
and effect of the state optometry law, and concerned the merits of
the charges pending against the appellees, at the heart of which
was the issue whether Alabama law permitted licensed optometrists
to be employed by business corporations and others. That central
question was pending in the Alabama Supreme Court in the Lee
case at the time the District Court entered its
order. As was noted earlier, however, appellees here had been
dismissed from that case by the state trial court, and it was only
after this dismissal, and after the Board had reactivated its
charges against them, that appellees sought relief in federal
Arguably, the District Court should have awaited the outcome of
the Lee Optical Co.
appeal, a decision which might have
obviated the need for an injunction in this case. [Footnote 18
] But the Board was pressing its
charges against appellees without awaiting that outcome and, in any
event, it appears that at least some of the charges pending against
appellees might have survived a reversal of the state trial court's
judgment by the Alabama Supreme Court. Under these circumstances,
it was not an abuse of discretion for the District Court to proceed
as it did.
Nevertheless, the Alabama Supreme Court has since rendered its
decision not only in the Lee Optical Co.
case but also in
a companion case, House of $8.50 Eyeglasses v. State Board of
288 Ala. 349, 261 So. 2d
(1972). See n
Individual optometrists were
parties to that latter case, and the Alabama Supreme Court entered
judgment in their behalf, holding that nothing
Page 411 U. S. 581
in the State's optometry law prohibited a licensed optometrist
from accepting employment from a business corporation. Whether this
judgment substantially devitalizes the position of the Board with
respect to the appellees here, or in any way makes unnecessary or
removes the "equity" from the injunction entered by the District
Court, we are unable to determine. But we do think that
considerations of equity, comity, and federalism warrant vacating
the judgment of the District Court and remanding the case to that
court for reconsideration in light of the Alabama Supreme Court's
judgments in the Lee Optical Co.
and House of $8.50
cases. We in no way intimate whether or not the
injunction should be reinstated by the District Court.
It is so ordered.
Sections 210 and 211 of c. 11, Tit. 46, of the Code of Alabama,
1940, provided, prior to 1965, as follows:
"§ 210. Store where glasses are sold; how department conducted.
-- Nothing in this chapter shall be so construed as to prevent any
person, firm, or corporation from owning or operating a store or
business establishment wherein eyes are examined or glasses fitted;
provided, that such store, establishment, or optometric department
shall be in charge of a duly licensed optometrist, whose name must
appear on and in all optometry advertising of whatsoever nature
done by said person, firm or corporation."
"§ 211. False or misleading statements in advertisements or
stores having optometry department. -- It shall be unlawful for any
person, firm or corporation, engaged in the practice of optometry
in this state to print or cause to be printed, or circulate or
cause to be circulated, or publish, by any means whatsoever, any
advertisement or circular in which appears any untruthful,
impossible, or improbable or misleading statement or statements, or
anything calculated or intended to mislead or deceive the public.
And it shall be unlawful for any individual, firm or corporation,
engaged in the sale of goods, wares or merchandise who maintains or
operates, or who allows to be maintained and operated in connection
with said mercantile business an optometry department; or who rents
or subleases to any person or persons for the purpose of engaging
in the practice of optometry therein, any portion of or space in
said store, premises or establishment in which such person, firm or
corporation is engaged in said mercantile business, to publish, or
circulate, or print or cause to be printed, by any means
whatsoever, any advertisement or notice of the optometry department
maintained, operated, or conducted in said establishment or place
of business, in which said advertisement or notice appear any
untruthful, improbable, impossible, or misleading statement or
statements, or anything calculated to mislead or deceive the
Sections 190213, regulating the practice of optometry in
Alabama, were originally adopted in 1919.
Section 211, as amended, reads as follows:
"§ 211. False or misleading statements in advertisements or
circulars. -- It shall be unlawful for any person engaged in the
practice of optometry in this state to print or cause to be
printed, or circulate or cause to be circulated, or published, by
any means whatsoever, any advertisement or circular in which
appears any untruthful, impossible, or improbable or misleading
statement or statements, or anything calculated or intended to
mislead or deceive the public."
Section 206, insofar as relevant here, provides as follows:
"§ 206. License may be suspended or revoked. -- A license issued
to any person may be suspended for a definite period of time, or
revoked by the state board of optometry for any of the following
reasons; to-wit: . . . For unprofessional conduct. 'Unprofessional
conduct' shall be defined to mean any conduct of a character likely
to deceive or defraud the public, lending his license by any
licensed optometrist to any person, the employment of 'cappers,' or
'steerers' to obtain business, 'splitting' or dividing a fee with
any person or persons, the obtaining of any fee or compensation by
fraud or misrepresentation, employing directly or indirectly any
suspended or unlicensed optometrist to do any optometrical work, by
use of any advertising, carrying the advertising of articles not
connected with the profession, the employment of any drugs or
medicines in his practice unless authorized to do so by the laws
covering the practice of medicine of this state, or the doing or
performing of any acts in his profession declared by the Alabama
Optometric Association to be unethical or contrary to good
The section also provides for a hearing before the Board upon
due notice of an accused license holder. At such a hearing, the
accused is entitled to be represented by counsel, to cross-examine
the witnesses against him, and to have all testimony taken down by
Some of the charges leveled against the named optometrists are
covered by sections of the Alabama optometry statute other than §
"practicing optometry under a false name" (§
191), "unlawfully soliciting the sale of glasses" (§ 203), etc.
A period of nearly five and one-half years passed between the
filing of the Board's complaint against Lee Optical and the
decision of the state trial court. Much of this delay appears to be
attributable to certain procedural wranglings in the court
concerning whether the Board had the power to bring an injunctive
action against those it believed to be practicing optometry
unlawfully. During the pendency of the litigation, the Alabama
Legislature passed a statute expressly conferring such power, both
prospectively and retroactively, on state licensing boards, and the
suit appears to have proceeded expeditiously thereafter.
§§ 190-213 of c. 11, Tit. 46, of the Alabama Code of 1940.
More specifically, the plaintiffs attacked §§ 206 and 192 of the
statute which provide, respectively, that the Board shall have the
power to entertain delicensing proceedings, and that its membership
shall be limited to members of the Alabama Optometric
The District Court also dismissed, without prejudice, the
Board's counterclaim in the present suit which sought a judgment
barring the plaintiffs from practicing optometry in Alabama.
See Lee Optical Co. of Alabama v. State Board of
288 Ala. 338, 261 So. 2d
, rehearing denied
Apr. 27, 1972.
In a companion case, House of $8.50 Eyeglasses v. State
Board of Optometry,
288 Ala. 349, 261
So. 2d 27
(1972), the Alabama Supreme Court reversed the
judgment of another lower state court which had enjoined a
corporation from unlawfully practicing optometry through its
optometrist employees. In that case, the individual optometrists
involved were also enjoined from unlawfully practicing their
profession. Both injunctions were dissolved by the Alabama Supreme
Title 28 U.S.C. § 2283 provides:
"A court of the United States may not grant an injunction to
stay proceedings in a State court except as expressly authorized by
Act of Congress, or where necessary in aid of its jurisdiction, or
to protect or effectuate its judgments."
The District Court held § 2283 inapplicable in the present case
because the plaintiffs sought an injunction against a state
administrative body, and not a state court. Whether this
distinction is tenable in all circumstances -- even where the
administrative proceeding is adjudicatory or
-judicial in character -- we need not decide here,
since the present action was brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
This exhaustion requirement does not apply generally to state
"judicial," as opposed to "administrative," remedies. See Bacon
v. Rutland R. Co., 232 U. S. 134
(1914); City Bank Farmers Trust Co. v. Schnader,
291 U. S. 24
(1934). The doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies
should, however, be kept distinct from other equitable doctrines
such as those exemplified in Younger v. Harris,
401 U. S. 37
(1971), and Railroad Comm'n v. Pullman Co., 312 U.
(1941), which do require a federal court to defer
in appropriate circumstances to state judicial
State administrative remedies have been deemed inadequate by
federal courts, and hence not subject to the exhaustion
requirement, on a variety of grounds. Most often this has been
because of delay by the agency, Smith v. Illinois Bell Tel.
Co., 270 U. S. 587
(1926), or because of some doubt as to whether the agency was
empowered to grant effective relief, Union Pac. R. Co. v. Board
of Comm'rs of Weld County, 247 U. S. 282
(1918); McNeese v. Board of Education, 373 U.
(1963). State administrative remedies have also
been held inadequate, however, where the state administrative body
was found to be biased or to have predetermined the issue before
it. Kelly v. Board of Education, 159 F.
See, e.g., Railroad Comm'n v. Pullman Co., supra; England v.
Louisiana State Bd. of Medical Exam'rs, 375 U.
(1964); Lake Carriers' Assn. v.
MacMullan, 406 U. S. 498
This Court was assured at oral argument by counsel for both
parties that Alabama law provides for de novo
of delicensing orders issued by the Board. Tr. of Oral Arg. 5, 19.
Nonetheless, the District Court expressly found that the revocation
by the Board of appellees' licenses to practice their profession,
together with the attendant publicity which would inevitably be
associated therewith, would cause "irreparable damage" to the
appellees for which no adequate remedy is afforded by state law.
The extent to which an administrative agency may investigate and
act upon the material facts of a case and then, consistent with due
process, sit as an adjudicative body to determine those facts
finally has occasioned some divergence of views among federal
courts. Compare Amos Treat & Co. v. SEC,
U.S.App.D.C. 100, 306 F.2d 260 (1962), and Trans World Airlines
102 U.S.App.D.C. 391, 254 F.2d 90 (1958), with
Pangburn v. CAB,
311 F.2d 349 (CA1 1962). See also Mack v.
Florida State Board of Dentistry, 296
F. Supp. 1259
(SD Fla.1969). We have no occasion to pass upon
this issue here in view of our disposition of the present case.
See Askew v. Hargrave, 401 U.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER, concurring.
I concur although, in my view, the three-judge District Court
would have been better advised, as a matter of sound judicial
discretion, to have refrained from acting until the outcome of the
my dissenting opinion in
Wisconsin v. Constantineau, 400 U.
, 400 U. S. 443
MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, with whom MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN joins,
I join the opinion of the Court except insofar as it suggests
that the question remains open whether plaintiffs in some suits
brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 may have to exhaust administrative
remedies. See ante
at 411 U. S.
-575. In my opinion, the inapplicability of the
exhaustion requirement to any suit brought under § 1983 has been
firmly settled by this Court's prior decisions. McNeese v.
Board of Education, 373 U. S. 668
373 U. S.
-672 (1963). See also Houghton v. Shafer,
392 U. S. 639
(1968); King v. Smith, 392 U. S. 309
392 U. S. 312
n. 4 (1968); Damico v. California, 389 U.